When she’s a victim, it hurts everyone

One woman in three has faced gender-based violence. It’s a global epidemic, but you can help stop it.

For starters, help raise awareness during this year’s “16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence” (#16days) campaign. It starts November 25 and continues through December 10.

You can also let others know that when women and girls are allowed to participate fully and equally in society, everyone benefits.

Investing in girls’ education is “the highest-return investment”

There’s a lot of evidence for this:

  • Economist Lawrence Summers says that “investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world.”
  • Entrepreneur Daniel Epstein says that in emerging markets, educated girls reinvest 90 percent of their incomes in the futures of their families, compared with 35 percent for educated boys.
  • An education not only allows a girl the opportunity to have a greater economic impact, but also can improve her family’s health due to fewer maternal and infant deaths, lower rates of HIV and AIDS and better child nutrition. When girls are educated, communities are better equipped to cope with adversity, withstand crises, and make investments in the future.

First lady Michelle Obama has taken up the cause. Her Let Girls Learn initiative supports hundreds of community projects to keep girls in school.

Having women in the government improves its performance

(State Dept./Edrick Agostini)

The U.S. Agency for International Development has found that countries where women hold at least 30 percent of political seats are more inclusive, egalitarian and democratic. Women’s political participation increases cooperation across party and ethnic lines and improves government responsiveness to citizens. Children and local communities get closer attention too.

Empowered rural women can feed the world

Many women in developing countries work in agriculture, but they have less access than men to land, training and new technologies and thus are usually less productive. The U.N. says equalizing women’s access could increase crop yields by as much as 30 percent. That would mean 150 million fewer hungry people.

Real men stand up for gender equality

Actor/musician Jared Leto joined other male celebrities in the U.N. campaign promoting gender equality.

It’s especially important for men and boys to show that they oppose gender discrimination and violence. Doing so shows solidarity with female relatives and friends and sets an example for other men. And when women have equal opportunities, men gain as well. Step up and lead. Join the U.N.’s #HeForShe campaign. You’ll be in great company.